Debunking Common Myths People Still Believe About Therapy

By Rosunnara R.
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Therapy can improve a person’s overall quality of life. The problem is that there are many misconceptions about it. Common myths and doubts about therapy come from movies and TV, which actually do more harm than good. They prevent people from seeking the help they desire — and need. Society depicts therapy as never-ending, unnecessary and only for certain types of people.

Let’s stop the spread of misinformation and get to the truth once and for all. Read on as we debunk the common myths people still believe about therapy.

Myth: Only People With “Serious” Problems Go to Therapy

Fact: It's a common myth that only "crazy" people seek therapy, such as individuals diagnosed with mental disorders or who are struggling with deep, dark problems. "Crazy" is actually an inappropriate term that shames people who could benefit from treatment. As a result of this stigma, people are less likely to ask for help and get their concerns checked.

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In reality, people go to therapy for all types of reasons, including depression, anxiety, stress, grief, relationship issues or personal growth. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 1 in 4 Americans have received treatment from a mental health professional. More people go to therapy than you may think.

Myth: Therapy Is Too Expensive

Fact: If you see a therapist often, the costs can add up. However, there are many ways to pay for services. Experts suggest checking with your insurance to see if it covers therapy instead of only paying out of pocket.

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If you don't have insurance, some therapists are flexible with their clients, providing sessions on a sliding fee scale. Many jobs and schools offer free services to employees or students. Some community clinics also provide free or low-cost services.

When it comes to spending money on therapy, experts encourage people to think about the benefits of treatment. It's a way to prioritize your health and well-being. "Therapy is an investment: an investment in yourself, your own well-being and your future. It can be very expensive, especially to see a specialist in the field, but you’re worth it," explains counselor Heidi McBain.

Many people have also turned to online therapy to chat with real therapists and use free downloadable tools and worksheets. Others read self-help books or attend support groups.

Myth: You Don't Need Therapy When You Can Talk to Friends

Fact: Many folks believe talking to good friends is as effective as therapy. While social support is important when you're experiencing problems, it's very different from therapy. A therapist is not a friend. Friendships are two-way streets where you give advice to each other. In most cases, the views are biased.

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According to Talkspace, "Friends don’t want to judge, but it’s hard for them to resist. They haven’t spent years training to refrain from judgment. If you share something intense, even a sensitive friend might react in a way that hurts your feelings."

Therapists are highly trained in listening and problem-solving. They provide guidance through your experiences and emotions rather than offering advice.

When you face serious challenges, therapists are well-prepared to help you confront them. You don't have to worry about censoring yourself or taking up a therapist's time. All the sessions are devoted to you. Also, therapists are legally required to keep your secrets.


Myth: Therapy Lasts for Years and Years

Fact: The average length of therapy is three to four months. But the course of therapy depends on a client's needs and situation. Some people see their therapists for two weeks, a few months or even years.

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"When people have been repeatedly traumatized, abused, neglected, or shamed as a child, without loving adults to help them handle these traumas, they generally need several years in therapy, or even more." explains therapist Cynthia W. Lubow. Cognitive behavioral therapy or couples counseling is often shorter in duration.

When you start working with a therapist, you can talk about the length of therapy and the number of sessions. Everyone is different and has their own pace. You also have full control over whether you want to continue or stop at any time.

Myth: Therapists Will Just Put You on Medication

Fact: Society often perceives those who seek mental-health care as receiving medication for a quick fix. But most therapists aren't allowed to prescribe medication. Only psychologists, physicians and advanced practice psychiatric nurses can prescribe medications to patients.

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Some therapy-goers are on medication, but not everyone incorporates pills into their treatment. Many clients seek therapy to manage their emotions and learn problem-solving strategies for a healthier, happier life.

According to the American Psychological Association, "Medications don't help you develop the skills you need to deal with life's problems. Once you stop taking medication, your problems often remain or come back."

Myth: Therapists Just Tell People What to Do and What to Think

Fact: Therapists help you through your thought processes and feelings, but you remain independent by making your own decisions and choices. While you reflect on your experiences, therapists ask questions and remind you about repeated patterns or past decisions.

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Therapists work with you instead of telling you what to do or giving advice. Ultimately, therapists help you figure out what you want to do and why. However, there are some exceptions to this. For instance, if a therapist is concerned for your safety or anyone else’s, they might be more directive.